Book Review: The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove

The Glass Sentence

Title: The Glass Sentence (The Mapmakers Trilogy #1)

Author: S. E. Grove

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: June 12 2014
Hardcover: 493 pages

She has only seen the world through maps. She had no idea they were so dangerous.

Boston, 1891. Sophia Tims comes from a family of explorers and cartologers who, for generations, have been traveling and mapping the New World—a world changed by the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were flung into different time periods. Eight years ago, her parents left her with her uncle Shadrack, the foremost cartologer in Boston, and went on an urgent mission. They never returned. Life with her brilliant, absent-minded, adored uncle has taught Sophia to take care of herself.

Then Shadrack is kidnapped. And Sophia, who has rarely been outside of Boston, is the only one who can search for him. Together with Theo, a refugee from the West, she travels over rough terrain and uncharted ocean, encounters pirates and traders, and relies on a combination of Shadrack’s maps, common sense, and her own slantwise powers of observation. But even as Sophia and Theo try to save Shadrack’s life, they are in danger of losing their own.

The Glass Sentence plunges readers into a time and place they will not want to leave, and introduces them to a heroine and hero they will take to their hearts. It is a remarkable debut.

Would I recommend this book:


The World:

In 1799, the Great Disruption shook the world, throwing time and place into a disequilibrium. Now, different eras exist on every continent! America is divided into New Occident (our east coast) and the Baldlands (our west coast–where several different eras coexist–also known as the Triple Eras), Europe is plummeted into a remote century, and many other continents are lost to uncharted Ages. As a result of this event, explorers and cartologers have become much sought-after professionals because these individuals try to make sense of the jumbled world.

The Characters:

Sophia Tims – Our 13-year-old protagonist is the niece of Shadrack Elli and the daughter of explorers.  At a very young age, she lost both of her parents in an expedition, and so, for most of her life, she was brought up by Shadrack and knows maps nearly as much as he does.  Unfortunately, Shadrack’s work kept him from fully parenting the young girl, and thus, Sophia needed to mature faster than other children, but this aspect of her is not the only reason why she’s set apart from everyone else–she has no internal clock.  In this world, it is a rare trait.  A moment may seem like hours to her.

Shadrack Elli – Is the uncle of Sophia and the best cartologer in the world due to his ability to read and write maps from paper to water.

Their adventure starts at Boston in 1891. The members of parliament announces that they will be closing their borders and will forcibly deport those without citizenship (families and individuals who haven’t left yet) by July fourth. This causes an enormous uproar. Then, only in a matter of days after the announcement was made, Shadrack Elli is kidnapped by Nihilismians. Nihilismians are people who believe that the current world isn’t real and they’ve concluded that Shadrack is the key in finding the carta mayor, the Map of the World, a legendary map that may undo what has been done to the world. In other words, rewriting time itself!

Shadrack leaves behind a glass map and a clue to his whereabouts, and so on that note, Sophia sets out to get him home. She is accompanied with a mysterious boy from the Baldlands, who promises to help her get to where she needs, however, more than one danger is at their heels, and for Sophia who knows not whether her uncle is still alive or dead–the girl who has no inner clock is racing against time because not only the men who stole her uncle away from her are tracking her down, but the world is changing…the Great Disruption threatens to topple the world yet again.

The concept of The Mapmakers Trilogy is brilliant and the world is utterly unique. It is thrilling, time-bending and horrific. There are fantastical beasts, mystical legends, tyrants, silver bones, leafy hair and pirates. What more could you ask for?

Though, there are some things about the story that aren’t perfect. Due to the densely imaginative world that the author created, there are inevitable hurdles that will be crossed and there is much info-dumping–but this skill takes time to perfect. Then, there are the characters. They are underdeveloped but likable/lovable. I would have liked a more in-depth characterization of our cast because the material in this volume alone could have been fitted into a whole series–and if that route was taken, more could have been done to fill-in these characters. Which brings me to the next issue, the end. I won’t spoil any details but I need to say that it was rushed. The slow build up at the beginning came down too fast. It’s like the incline of a rollercoaster, you’re anticipating the fall but the structure that seemed to tower over the sky itself ended up becoming a five second drop. And, lastly, the maps. The maps were introduced to us as a science but it is waved in front of us, attempting to explain but, in actuality, not explaining at all–and this may not have been an issue if it was science because not only are these maps on paper, it has been discovered that maps can be written on water, glass, clay, onions, et cetera. And these maps don’t exactly pinpoint destinations with outlines and coordinates explained by longitude and latitude, they record vivid memories, sensations, et cetera. Therefore, the right word to describe the creation of these maps should have been magic not science. It seemed that the world was scoffing at the creation of maps with magic when there are mythical creatures lurking in some of the various Ages. Maybe I am criticizing this aspect too much–maybe I am discovering a new pet peeve…

At any rate, even with all these imperfections, this is a diamond in the rough. Everything about this story is fascinating and mind-boggling. Love love love it! I am thoroughly looking forward to the next installment, The Golden Specific.

 Yes! However, it is not the focus of this series but there is enough to make your toes curl. (Personally, I love subtlety.) Though, at my age, all I’m thinking is, “They’re too cute, they’re too cute~”

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars


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